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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

**URGENT ACTION ALERT** -- 5 Minutes to Help -- Gulf War Illness treatment research




ACTION NEEDED:   Ask your Congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives to sign onto the "Bergman-Sablan" (in the U.S. HOUSE) "Dear Colleague Letter for Gulf War Illness treatment research funding" (FY18) 

DEADLINE:  Congressional sign-on's must be completed no later than March 31, 2017 (House).  

(The Senate has not yet begun its appropriations work for this year, but that will be coming soon.)

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(91outcomes.com) - Key members of Congress have launched a renewed bipartisan initiative to continue the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) to develop treatments for Gulf War Illness.  

The GWIRP is part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) administered by the U.S. Department of Defense under Congressional direction.  

VA and scientific estimates show that Gulf War Illness affects between one-fourth and one-third of the veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.   The consensus among Gulf War Illness medical researchers is increasingly clear:  With the a concerted national effort, effective treatments can likely be found.


This year’s effort is being led in the House by Rep. Jack Bergman, LtGen, USMC (Ret.) (R-MI) and Rep. Gregorio Sablan (I-NMI), and supported by Rep.’s Phil Roe, M.D. and Tim Walz, CSM, ARNG (Ret.).   


As a retired three-star Marine Corps general, Gen. Bergman, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is the highest ranking former military person ever to serve in Congress.  Sablan represents the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) and has been a strong supporter of the program for years, with deep concerns about the effects of Agent Orange in the NMI.  

And, as a retired Command Sergeant Major, Walz, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, is the highest ranking enlisted person ever to serve in Congress.  Dr. Roe is the Chairman of the full House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and Walz is the Ranking Member of the minority party on the Committee.

Last year, 74 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto the Dear Colleague letter in support of FY17 Gulf War Illness treatment research funding.  Thirteen (13) members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee were among those cosigners, led by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) and Rep. Tim Walz, CSM, ARNG (Ret.) (D-MN), including  then-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC) Jeff Miller (R-FL), then-Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL) , Vice-Chairman Gus Bilirakis (D-FL), and five Subcommittee Chairs or Ranking Members.

While the U.S. Senate has not yet launched this year's appropriations efforts, watch in the coming weeks for a parallel effort led by a longstanding champion of this program, U.S. Senate by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), who will again lead this year's push in the Senate continued funding for the unique, treatment-focused medical research program aimed at improving Gulf War veterans' health and lives.  

Information below shows what you can do in just five minutes to support this critically important national effort to help our nation's Gulf War veterans.



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STEP-BY STEP, HOW YOU CAN HELP IN JUST 5 MINUTES:

1.  Find your Congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives:
    • (U.S. HOUSE) Find your Congressman/Congresswoman here (near the top right corner, enter your zip code).  

2.  Call his or her Washington, DC office [not their office(s) back in their district or home state] , and ask for the legislative staff person who handles Defense Appropriations.  
    • If you get their voicemail, leave a detailed voicemail with your specific request (below).


3.  State your name and that you are a constituent, and very briefly (in 1 or 2 sentences at most) state your connection to Gulf War Illness
    • [For example:  "I'm among the one-in-three veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffering from Gulf War Illness".  
    • Or, "I'm the wife/husband/son/daughter/parent of a Gulf War veteran suffering from Gulf War Illness."
    • Or, "I'm one of many other veterans besides those who served in the Gulf War and I'm also suffering from a chronic multi-system illness like Gulf War Illness."
    • Etc.


4.  State that there is a "Dear Colleague" letter that you are specifically requesting the Congressman/Congresswoman sign onto.  


5.  Provide the name of the "Dear Colleague" letter (there is no bill number -- this is a "Dear Colleague" request to get funding into a bill -- specifically the FY18 Defense Appropriations Act):  
  • (U.S. HOUSE)  The "Bergman-Sablan Dear Colleague Letter for FY18 Gulf War Illness treatment research funding."  


6.  State that this is to continue funding for a successful, treatment-focused program and there were 74 cosigners last year.


7.  State the sign-on deadline (this is a hard deadline)March 31, 2017 (U.S. House). The Congressman/Congresswoman will likely want to support the one-fourth to one-third of Gulf War veterans and others suffering from Gulf War Illness.  

[Staff contacts, in case they ask are:  U.S. House of Representatives:  Rep. Jack Bergman (Chris Mataranga); Rep. Gregorio Sablan (Frances Diaz).  U.S. Senate:  Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Jeremy Steslicki).]


8.  Ask if you can email the staffer with a short one-pager about the program.  This is very important.  Then right away, email them the link to this document:  

About the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), March 2017:
https://www.scribd.com/document/342586310/About-the-Gulf-War-Illness-Research-Program-GWIRP-FY18-March-2017
9.  Ask that the staff person follow-up with you to let you know the Senator's or Congressman's/Congresswoman's decision.


10.  Thank the staff person for their time.


AFTER YOUR CALL:

If they say they will sign on, post a comment below this post with the name of the Senator or Congressperson and the name of the staffer and that they will or will not sign on.  

Follow-up in 2-3 days to find out the status, if you haven't heard back.


TIPS:
  • Be polite
  • Be pleasant
  • Be urgent
  • Be respectful
  • Be convincing
  • Be brief
  • Be SPECIFIC with the REQUEST:  Sign onto the "Baldwin" (U.S. SENATE) or "Bergman-Sablan" (U.S. HOUSE) "Dear Colleague Letter for Gulf War Illness treatment research funding"  
  • Do not argue with, get angry with, or threaten the staffer in any way.  


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CURRENT COSIGNERS LIST:  http://www.91outcomes.com/2017/03/current-cosigners-list-fy18-gulf-war.html

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ's)




WHAT IS THE GOAL?

The overall goal of the program is to find effective treatments for the officially estimated quarter-of-a million veterans of the 1991 Gulf War and others who are still suffering from the debilitating effects of Gulf War Illness.


These veterans were directly impacted by a veritable toxic soup of hazardous exposures during the short but intense war, and the best efforts our nation can provide to assist them.  



WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? 

You can email, call, or electronically message your two U.S. Senators who represent you and your state in the U.S. Senate and your Congressman or Congresswoman who represents you in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

See above for "10 quick and easy steps" to make your request.  

Many Members of Congress have an option to submit your comments from a quick form right on their webpage.



WHO IS LEADING THIS FUNDING EFFORT IN CONGRESS?

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Jack Bergman, LTG, USMC (Ret.) (R-Michigan) and Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-U.S. Territory of Northern Mariana Islands) are co-leading this effort.  Both serve on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. 

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tennessee) and Ranking Member Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) are backing this.   



In the United States Senate, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is leading the bipartisan effort for the Senate.  

This is a fully bipartisan effort.


AT WHAT LEVEL SHOULD THE FUNDING BE SUPPORTED, AND WHY?

The effort is to support the treatment-focused Gulf War Illness CDMRP.  Their effort is calling for House Members to support this important program by signing onto a "Dear Colleague" letter requesting adequate continuation funding for this successful, unique, and important program.  


WHY IS THIS PROGRAM NEEDED?


Reports by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM)2 (pp. 10, 260-64) and the Congressionally-mandated VA Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses3 emphasize that “effective treatments, cures, and, it is hoped, preventions” for GWI can “likely be found,” “…through a concerted national effort and rigorous scientific input.” In addition, important discoveries made by the GWIRP may also help protect current and future U.S. military service members at risk of similar toxic exposures. (RAC 2014, pp. 1, 4, 5, 13, 78, 83; IOM 2010, pp. 10, 260-64.)


WHO SUPPORTS THIS PROGRAM?


The RAC, more than 50 FY15 Independent Budget Veterans’ Service Organizations (IBVSO’s), scientist GWIRP panelists,1,5 and numerous consumer reviewers serving with the GWIRP have expressed strong support for the GWIRP to improve the health and lives of veterans suffering from GWI.   

The FY15 IBVSO’s said the GWI CDMRP, “has made great strides in the
short time it has been operating,” and the IBVSO’s (DAV, PVA, VFW, and 27 others) for the 115th Congress (2017-18) are asking Congress to “…provide sufficient funding to resume robust research to identify effective treatments...”


The program is supported by the nation's leading Veterans Service Organizations.  FY17 funding supporters included:  the American LegionAMVETS; Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN); Burnpits360; Disabled American Veterans (DAV); Lung Cancer Alliance; National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC); National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition (NVGWVC); Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA); Sergeant Sullivan CircleToxic Wounds Task Force; Veterans for Common Sense (VCS); Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW); Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). 
The FY15 Independent Budget Veterans Service Organizations (IBVSO’s, composed of AMVETS, DAV, PVA, VFW, and 53 other organizations that serve veterans) stated that the GWI CDMRP, “has made great strides in the short time it has been operating.” (pp. 126-27)


WHEN SHOULD I CALL MY SENATORS'/CONGRESSPERSON'S OFFICE?

Right away.  The deadline is fast approaching. 



WHEN IS THE DEADLINE? 

The sign-on deadline for Congresspersons in the U.S. House of Representatives to sign-on is March 31, 2017, and for Senators in the U.S. Senate it has not yet been announced.  Typically, their offices need one or more days to secure approval to sign-on.  




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ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS



WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GULF WAR ILLNESS RESEARCH PROGRAM?

The Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), a Congressionally directed activity funded under the U.S. Department of Defense, has a comprehensive website on the GWI program at:  http://cdmrp.army.mil/gwirp .  The GWIRP also publishes an overview of the program in its GWIRP program booklet.  

The GWIRP also publishes an overview of what is known scientifically about Gulf War Illness:  The Gulf War Illness Landscape .


Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a leading national veterans' education and advocacy organization, has published the following two documents about the Gulf War Illness Research Program:


WHEN IS THE NEXT FUNDING AVAILABILITY FOR GULF WAR ILLNESS TREATMENT RESEARCH FUNDS?


The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command) provides information for prospective researchers, including how to apply.

Funding announcements are typically made in the late Spring of each year, but timing may vary quite a bit from year to year, depending upon Congressional appropriations.  


WHAT IS RECENT RESEARCH SAYING ABOUT GULF WAR ILLNESS?

Recent research shows that chemical exposures are causally associated with Gulf War Illness.  Psychiatric causes have been ruled out.  


This paper reviews the recent medical literature on the health of 1991 Gulf War veterans, focusing particularly on the central nervous system and on effects of Gulf War toxicant exposures:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4724528/pdf/nihms746360.pdf

Another important advance for finding treatments for Gulf War Illness, funded by the GWIRP, was published in March 2017:



WHAT DOES THE "DEAR COLLEAGUE" LETTER ACTUALLY SAY?  


A copy of the actual letter that Members of the House are actually signing onto is here:  https://www.scribd.com/document/342586729/FY18-Bergman-Sablan-Dear-Colleague-Unsigned-Letter-for-Circulation


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--Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com Author and Gulf War veteran advocate.


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